Sunday, October 31, 2004

The truth about drug testing

An excellent essay appears in of all places, the Arizona Republic today. E.J. Montini takes a look at how drug-free students really mean truth-free schools. Obviously of my generation, he notes well how we traded in our youthful idealism once we became parents ourselves.

That's funny, because the truth is what we used to be about. Or so we liked to say. It was "the man" who lied. It was "the system" that deceived. It was the "establishment." We weren't going to become a part of that. Not when we came of age. We weren't going to sugarcoat reality for our kids. We were going to be honest.

Maybe we even are more honest than our folks were but we're increasingly willing to hand over our responsibilities to the "establishment" and nowhere is that more apparent than by acquiescing to drug testing our students. It makes "the system" once again, look like the villain and frees us from having to deal with a subject that is no fun. But as E.J. points out, being a parent is not supposed to be fun and we do our children no favor by giving the schools the position of disciplinarian in our stead.

That's sort of what happened when we couldn't stop our grade-schoolers from dressing like hookers or thugs and asked the schools to institute dress codes.

It's what we're doing now when we demand that schools teach classes in ethics and morality, because coming down on our own kids about good and evil, right and wrong is like, you know, a bummer. We'd rather sue the fast food chains for making our kids fat than force them to occasionally eat a piece of fruit.

We can't even take charge of the TV remote control, asking instead for the federal government to slap big fines on broadcasters who air programs that we shouldn't allow our kids to watch in the first place.

Kids today, just as we did, have an acute bullshit meter and they know when we don't level with them. But it takes time to explain the truth and it makes for difficult conversation. They often don't want to hear it. EJ sums up the problem well.

So we ask the schools to tell them. We ask the government. We pretend to be serious when we say that it's more difficult to be a kid today than it was when we were children. Just the opposite is true. It's easier to be a kid now. It's tougher being a parent. That's why we let the TV and the computer baby-sit for us. It's why we let Mickey D's do the cooking. It's why we let schoolteachers do the parenting.

Given all that, maybe the least we can do for our kids is to be honest with them about something like in-school drug testing.

We should tell them that it's not really our way of teaching boys and girls to pass up drugs. It's our way of teaching them how to pass the buck.


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